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Sterling Blog: Santa, steaks and peaches
If you still believe strongly in Santa, I’m going to need you to skip the next couple of paragraphs. Just scan down until I talk about Burton’s Grill and read from there. And no peeking.

Okay, now that we’re alone. Writing a letter to Santa was a huge thing for me as a kid. My mom stopped taking me to see a live Santa when the Thalhimer’s department store downtown closed. This left me with the belief that the real Santa only went there, and every other Santa was fake. However, the letters? Those definitely got to him. Even with some notable omissions (still waiting on a pony), Santa stuck to my list like it was a wedding gift registry—but never wrote me back.

If you would like your child to not only send a letter to Santa, but also get one back (along with a recipe from Mrs. Claus), the Sterling Community Center is here to help. For $4 per letter, your child will send Santa a letter and get to know the jolly old elf is checking his list twice. But you only have until  Dec. 14  to get your forms in, so getting your kid thinking about what he wants. You can get the registration form by calling the center at  703-420-9480  or dropping by 120 Enterprise St. Be sure to take a look at the list before sending it in. 

OK, Santa-believers, you can come back now. I promise we were just talking about cookie recipes and reindeer snacks.

On  Dec. 5, Burton’s Grill at 21434 Epicerie Plaza in Cascades Overlook will be hosting an Odyssey of the Mind night for our teams at Sterling Middle School. Just come out for dinner between  6 and 9 p.m., enjoy a nice meal, and then go home full of the knowledge that you helped our teams get all the funding they need! It’s that easy to support our kids while doing what we all like to do—eat good food. 

The following weekend, it’s time to audition for the Sterling Playmakers’ production of James and the Giant Peach! Stop by the Sterling Community Center  Dec. 8  (6:30-8:30 p.m.), 9 (6:30-8:30 p.m.), or 10 (12:30-4 p.m.)  to try out for this fun show, which will hit the stage in early March 2017. Roles are available for ages 10 and up, but there are adult roles available as well if you’re looking for a unique family experience. To learn more about the show, including character descriptions and a rehearsal schedule, visit http://www.sterlingplaymakers.com.
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CountrySide and Cascades Blog: Laughing for a good cause
  When you’re a Girl Scout in the D.C. area, you quickly learn about the importance of sharing resources.

Every troop in the region supports the scouting organization’s SHARE program, which raises funds to make sure scouting is available to all by offering financial assistance when needed for membership and troop dues, supplies, camperships and program fees. The project also supports training programs for adult leaders and many other resources.

This week, Sterling-based Girl Scout Service Unit 70-18 is helping the SHARE project by hosting the area’s fifth annual SHARE-a-laugh fundraiser on Dec. 2 at Algonkian Elementary School.

The family-friendly evening features two Loudoun-based improvisational comedy troupes—The Last Ham Standing, which performs regularly at the Franklin Park Arts Center in Purcellville, and the Potomac Falls High School SOFA (Silly Outrageous Funny Actors) troupe. The emcees of the event include members of CountrySide-based Girl Scout Troop 952.

Donations to SHARE will be accepted at the door. In addition, the proceeds from the food and refreshments sales will benefit the SHARE project. Cash is the only form of payment accepted for refreshment  sales.

The doors open at  6:30 p.m.  All seating is general admission. For information, call  202-258-3706.

Shop local

Award-winning CountrySide-based photographers Dora Ramirez and Gerry D’Onofrio recently released a limited edition 2017 “Beyond DC: Beautiful Northern Virginia” calendar. A preview of the calendar by the fine art photographers is available online at  gerdora.com.

‘Naughty or Nice’

Eastern Loudoun’s Stagecoach Theatre Company debuts its second annual Naughty or Nice Christmas Cabaret with a dinner theater performance  Dec. 3  at Savoir Fair in Round Hill. The show includes classic carols and contemporary holiday tunes. The production comes to the Cascades Senior Center on  Dec. 17. The doors open at  6:30 p.m.; the show begins at  7 p.m.  Beverages will be available for purchase. This performance does not include dinner.

Additional dinner theater performances are scheduled for  Dec. 11  at Leesburg Brewing Company and  Dec. 18  at the Salamander Resort in Middleburg. A  performance without dinner takes place  Dec. 9  at Lansdowne Woods. Information and reservations are available at http://www.stagecoachtc.com.

Tween foodies

The Loudoun County Library at Cascades presents Edible Gifts, a session for youngsters in grades 4 through 6, on  Dec. 5  from  5:30 to 6:30 p.m.  Participants will sample recipes and make gifts to take home. For information, call 703-444-3228.

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Sterling Blog: Off to college
Nearly 50 sixth-grade students from Sterling Middle School visited James Madison University for the day on Nov. 16. Times-Mirror/Jen Lofquist

Usually, when a kid leaves for college, they don’t go off in a school bus and they aren’t back by dinner. However, on Nov. 16, nearly 50 kids from Sterling Middle School headed up to James Madison University (JMU) for the day – accompanied by teachers and chaperones (including your friendly neighborhood columnist, as if I’d miss a chance to visit my alma mater).

Last year, some of the sixth-grade history classes did a project proposing a monument for James Madison in Washington, D.C. As they worked on the project, the students reached out to organizations and sites from James Madison’s life, as well of those named after him. JMU started in 1908 as the State Normal and Industrial School for Women. In 1938, to honor our fourth president, the school was renamed Madison College and eventually became JMU. The school not only provided information to the students, but also suggested that they come by and say hi.

After months of planning and hard work from SMS staff, the kids headed up in two buses at 7:45 a.m. JMU rolled out the purple and gold carpet for our kids. The students sat in on a “College Q&A” with admissions staff and current JMU students (including an SMS alum) to learn about what it takes to get into JMU as well as the day-to-day life of a college student. Our kids were invited to ask questions about everything from class schedules to the quality of JMU’s softball team. Then it was off to lunch, where many of the SMS students decided JMU was the school for them – based solely on the ice cream machines. Afterward, it was a tour of the village area and the quad, which is the main part of JMU’s campus with bluestone buildings dating to 1908. While out on the quad, the students were treated to a special guest, JMU President Jonathan Alger, who sat for pictures, spoke with the kids and invited them all back as students. After a quick trip to the bookstore, the kids went back home with a new appreciation for college life.

It’s always nice when new neighbors act neighborly, and the shops and restaurants at Cascades Overlook are fitting right in. Earlier this month, Zoup! provided a sponsorship for the SMS Odyssey of the Mind Teams. On Monday, Dec. 5, Burton’s Grill will host an Odyssey of the Mind Night, with a portion of the proceeds going to support the SMS teams. Just show up between 6 and 9 p.m., eat a great meal (I really like the Reuben) and help our teams succeed! It’s that easy to thank our new neighbors and support our students.

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Sterling Blog: Making things better
Cascades and CountrySide Blog: The most generous time of the year
Sterling Blog: Crafting for a cause
Sterling Blog: We’re all a bit Jo
Cascades and CountrySide Blog: Malone Foundation Class of 2016 announced
Cascades and CountrySide Blog: A spooky wind blows through eastern Loudoun
Sterling Blog: Playing the field
Cascades and CountrySide Blog: ‘Trick or Treat’ premieres this weekend
Sterling Blog: Sterling’s got talent
Sterling Blog: SterlingFest this Saturday!
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